The Philippines was unlike the other Southeast Asian countries I’ve visited (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam). There was a few reasons for this – one is that it is a mainly Catholic country, unlike its neighbours who are primarily Buddhist. The country also was one of the friendliest I’ve ever been to. Yes, Manila can be a bit dodgy at times, but the majority of the Philippines is full of warmth and the biggest of smiles. You pass Filipinos on the street and they all make sure to say hello, or help get you to where you want to go, and they don’t do it with an ulterior motive, just to be genuinely nice.
My nearly three weeks in the Philippines was incredible and I have weeks upon weeks of content and stories to share with all of you, but here are just some highlights to tease you of what’s to come.
Island hopping in El Nido
Palawan, the island which El Nido is on, has been named by places like CN Traveler as having the most beautiful beaches in the world. With its limestone cliffs, pristine beaches and blue water, there’s no question to why. While in El Nido, the island hopping tours are one of the main things promoted and it’s easy to see why they’re coined as a must-do. I picked tour A as per the recommendation of the locals, but tour C is also one of the most popular too. Even though it was rainy, the scenery of the places I visited was actually breathtaking and makes it hard to believe places this beautiful really do exist.
The Chocolate Hills
The Chocolate Hills are a grassy series of hills that get their name because during dry season (February-March) they turn from green to a roasted brown. These hills attract several tourists throughout the year on the island of Bohol in Carmen. When we visited, climbed up the steps to the viewpoint, my heart sank when I realized that the fog from a recent rainfall was hanging low over the hills so we couldn’t see them! Thankfully, after waiting awhile, the fog lifted and we were graced with the beauty of the hills. Mother Nature must’ve owed us a favour!
Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm
Gawad Kalinga is a community development project aimed to help alleviate poverty in the Philippines. The Enchanted Farm located in Bulacan has three aspects to it – the farm, the village, and the university. All these projects help teach locals from less fortunate communities learn the skills to be successful and to support themselves and their families. Visiting the farm and learning about how this organization helped give a more promising life to so many in the community was so eyeopening and an incredible experience.
Staying in the jungle at Nuts Huts
Nuts Huts tops my list of best places I’ve probably ever stayed, and it wasn’t because it was five stars or had over-the-top facilities, it was because it was such a good way to truly get to appreciate the beauty of Loboc in Bohol. Nuts Huts isn’t easy to get to as cars won’t usually drive down the rough access road, but it’s worth the trek (pack a backpack, not a suitcase). You’ll be given a hut which overlooks the Loboc River. I had a chance to eat some delicious, fresh, home-cooked meals, explore the river further with their hikes and kayaks, and they’re incredibly helpful with helping you navigate or book other attractions in the area. Definitely an unconventional but awesome place to stay.
Eating at Bag of Beans
Even though my trip to Tagaytay wasn’t what I originally anticipated, it did have an incredible positive to being stuck in traffic for four hours on the way back to Manila. That positive was eating at the delicious Bag of Beans located in Tagaytay. This restaurant is a bit off-the-beaten-path but has the cutest ambiance with food that speaks for itself. We started with a yummy meat soup and then had a salmon dish which was topped with fresh salsa. This was hands down the best meal I had on my whole trip!
Hiking in Batad to the Tappiya Waterfalls
One of the most exhausting and difficult things I’ve done, being someone from a flat city who doesn’t have the chance to hike often, hiking (and surviving the hike) in Batad was definitely a highlight. To get into Batad, you have to walk about 20 minutes as there is no road that can reach the village fully. When you arrive, you will hike through the rice terraces and down to the beautiful Tappiya Falls. The whole hike, there and back, takes around three hours, but be prepared to be challenged!
Having a boodle fight
A boodle fight is an interesting way of eating where long tables are covered in banana leaves and rice with vegetables and meat are laid out down the centre. With your bare hands, you then essentially fight for your food, however, it’s less aggressive then it sounds. Your group will stand on either side of the table, and eat away at the meal which was quite delicious! It definitely is a different eating experience and a must-do if you get the chance while in the Philippines.
Keep coming back to read more about some of the above highlights and ones also not mentioned here in the coming weeks!